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A Step-By-Step Guide To Preparing A PF-TEK

How To Prepare A PF-Tek

PF-TEK FOR GROWING MUSHROOM SPORES

Purchasing magic mushroom spores or pre-made spore syringes is the first step to cultivating shrooms, but now you have to find a way to get your little babies growing at home! A PF-Tek was the first method devised to do so, and the process of setting one up is something that can be done in the comfort of your own kitchen.

The PF-Tek method is a cheap and reasonably straightforward form of mushroom cultivation that uses brown rice flour as a substrate with the addition of vermiculite to control humidity and aerate the substrate, providing more room for the mycelium to grow. The substrate is placed in glass jars, sterilized in a pressure cooker and later injected with shroom spores.

One cool thing about the PF-Tek is that full sterilization is not completely necessary, and you could even use a regular cooking pot to reach a form of pasteurization. However, it goes without saying that sterilization, and therefore the use of a pressure cooker, is always best. Here is our easy to follow PF-Tek to make sure you get the best results from your purchase.

What you will need:

  • Glass jars
  • Vermiculite
  • Brown rice flour
  • Mixing container
  • Spoon
  • Pressure cooker or large pot
  • Round metal rack (to fit in the bottom of the pressure cooker)
  • Sterilising flame source (a lighter, alcohol lamp, butane torch. Something so you can use both hands without worrying about fire)
  • Clean water
  • Sieve
  • Aluminium foil
  • Spore syringe
  • Permanent marker
  • Misting bottle

What You Will Need To Prepare A PF-Tek

Vermiculite is available in handy, hobby-sized bags at the general gardening depot or in pet stores as cat litter. Organically minded people might be alarmed by the texture of vermiculite. It feels distinctly like rubber or some weird plastic, but fear not. It is absolutely a mineral from the Earth. It has merely been exposed to extreme heat, resulting in vermiculite that can be used for multiple purposes. Rice flour is available at your local supermarket.

Before starting, the three things to always remember when dealing with mycelia are clean, clean and clean.

PREPARING THE SUBSTRATE

Preparing The Substrate

What you will need for 1 jar of substrate:

  • 1x250ml glass jar. Small mason jars are good because they are wide and squat and the glass is durable. 250ml equals one metric cup
  • 150ml of vermiculite
  • 50ml of brown rice flour (BRF)
  • Extra vermiculite to fill jar
  • Clean water

The method:

  1. Place the chosen amount of vermiculite in the mixing bowl.
  2. Slowly add water while stirring with the spoon. You want to soak the vermiculite thoroughly without excess water gathering in the bottom of the bowl. Stir consistently.
  3. After the vermiculite is evenly wet, tip the bowl on edge. If excess water collects in the bottom of the bowl, you have added too much. If this happens, put the mix in a sieve and let it rest until the excess has drained off. Then, it will be in the Goldilocks zone.
  4. Once the vermiculite is wet, immediately add the required amount of BRF. Mix it well. The idea is to uniformly coat every surface of the vermiculite with the BRF. This guarantees that no matter where a spore settles, it will be a fertile spot.
  5. Carefully spoon the mixture into the mason jars without tamping or pressing the mixture in. The substrate needs to remain fluffy and airy to best grow mycelia. Fill the jar until 10mm from the lip. Just below the thread on a mason jar is perfect.
  6. Be sure not to get any smears or mix on the edge of the jar. Any residue that is not part of the substrate can harbour nasty contaminants that will hinder the process. Clean any remnants with a clean, moist cloth. Be fussy.
  7. Now, use the spare vermiculite to fill the jar to the top. This dry layer prevents airborne contamination during inoculation and incubation.

PF-Tek Method

PREPARING FOR STERILISATION

Fold a piece of aluminium foil in half. Size to cover the jar and run down each side. Put foil over the jar and scrunch the edges to make a tight seal. You want to make a well-fitted lid. If you have metal lids, punch four holes equally spaced around the circumference.

Now, take a second piece of foil that will cover the jar well. Place it over the foil or metal lid. Squeeze it to fit well, but remember it has to be loose enough to be lifted for inoculation later.

STERILISING

Sterilising

Pressure cooker method:

  1. Pour approximately 2.5cm of water into the bottom of the pressure cooker. Not too much, the water mustn't boil up into the jars and wreck the balance.
  2. Stack the jars inside, making sure not to tear any of the aluminium foil.
  3. Fit the lid to the pressure cooker.
  4. Over a period of fifteen minutes, slowly bring the cooker up to 15psi. Heating too rapidly can risk cracking the glass.
  5. Once the pressure rocker valve is releasing steam, reduce the heat until only a gentle and occasional breath of steam escapes.
  6. Let sterilise for 45 minutes.
  7. Turn off the heat and leave to cool slowly for at least five hours or overnight.

Big pot method:

  1. Place round rack in the bottom of the pot.
  2. Pour 2.5cm of water into the bottom.
  3. Stack jars inside, making sure not to tear the foil.
  4. Place lid on the pot and slowly bring to a boil over medium heat.
  5. Reduce heat to a very gentle boil.
  6. Let sterilise for one and a half hours.
  7. Without the heavy duty seal of a pressure cooker, the water level will reduce over time. Check every twenty minutes and top up when necessary. Only top up with pre-boiled water from a kettle to avoid shocking and cracking the glass.
  8. Turn off the heat and leave to cool for five hours or overnight.

INOCULATION

Inoculation

  1. Wash your hands well and clean your work area.
  2. Once the pot or cooker become cool to the touch, take the jars out and place on the cleaned surface. Have your spore syringe and lit flame source ready.
  3. Shake the syringe to break up the settled spore clumps. If there is no room in the barrel, place the needle in the flame and draw a small amount of heat sterilised air into the barrel. Replace the manufacturer's cap and shake well to thoroughly disperse the spores. 
    Please note: The spores in the liquid are not always visible to the naked eye, as a single spore is microscopic in size. Our Spore Syringes are guaranteed to contain enough ready-to-use spores to inoculate up to 10 250ml jars of substrate.
  4. Loosen the outer foil lid, so it can be removed quickly when it is time to inoculate.
  5. Remove the syringe cap and heat the needle in your flame until it glows orange. Let it cool.
  6. Remove the outer foil lid from each jar only as you are about to inoculate.
  7. Pierce the double-foiled, well-fitted lid with the syringe right at the very edge of the jar, or put the syringe in the pre-made holes in the metal lid. You should penetrate through the dry layer of vermiculite. Angle the syringe toward the glass wall of the jar and inject 0.25ml of suspension. You should see the emulsion form a drop, then run down the glass. Repeat this at four equally spaced points around the edge of the jar (north, south, east and west). You will use 1.0-1.5ml per jar, which will make 6-10 jars from a 10ml syringe.
  8. Replace the outer foil lid.
  9. Re-sterilise the needle to prevent cross-contamination.
  10. Repeat until your chosen amount of jars have been inoculated.
  11. Squeeze all the outer foil lids to make a nice tight seal that won't move as you handle the jars.
  12. ID the species and date on the foil lid with a permanent marker.

If you stop to do anything else, wash your hands and re-sterilise the needle.

INCUBATION

Incubation

The jars should be stored in a dark place and kept at a temperature of 21-27°C. Ideally, they would be kept at a constant 27°C. Cool temperatures mean slower incubation and slower growth through every stage. Keep things warm.

When ideal temperatures are observed, new life should be seen within 3-5 days. The first signs will be bright white dots on the vermiculite. They must only be white. If you see pink, black or green, you definitely have an infection of some kind and should throw out the jar straight away.

Do not lift the foil lids, but place the whole thing - jar, substrate, the works into a plastic bag and dispose of immediately. Do not try to save the jar. You risk spreading undesirable spores. Review your clean handling and sterilising procedures.

Under ideal conditions, it takes 14-28 days for the mycelium to colonise the whole jar. Timing depends on species and temperatures.

PINNING

Pinning

Once the jar is colonised, it is time to initiate pinning. Keep jars at room temperature, approximately 21°C. Expose the jars to a regular light cycle. 4-12 hours a day will do fine. This can be a soft, white fluorescent light or indirect sunlight as is the case in most rooms.

Depending on the species, pins can be seen within 5-10 days, but don't be surprised if it is 30 days. Pins are concentrations in the mycelium that form the mushrooms - like a ganglion in a neural network. During the following days, the brown heads of baby mushrooms can be clearly seen developing.

Once small mushrooms are visible, it is time to birth the cake so fruiting can continue in earnest.>Some species do not pin easily. If this is the case, wrap the jar in a plastic bag and place in the refrigerator overnight. The cold shock is usually enough to begin the pinning process. Continue with fruiting the next day, even if there are no pins visible.

FRUITING

Fruiting

Fruiting the mycelium cake can be done in any container that has a clear or translucent top. A bucket with a plastic bag over the top, a terrarium, a foam box with a sheet of glass over the top or even a commercially bought translucent storage container are all valid. As long as there is easy access for you and a modicum of light.

  1. Put a 1.5cm layer of perlite or expanded clay pellets in the bottom of the fruiting chamber. A number of layers of interleaved paper towel works well.
  2. Moisten the layer with an atomiser of clean water.
  3. Remove the foil lids from the jars.
  4. Birth the mycelium cakes onto the moist layer by letting them slide from the upside down jar.
  5. If they are stuck, replace the foil. Hold the upturned jar in your palm and tap the back of that hand against your other hand. This should shake it loose. If not, tap harder until the cake shakes loose. You are trying not to damage any proto shrooms.
  6. If you are putting more than one cake in your fruiting chamber, make sure they are at least 2.5cm apart. You need shroom room.
  7. Once your midwifery duties are done, place the cover over your container.
  8. Once per day, remove the cover and exchange the air by fanning with a sheet of clean cardboard or something similar.
  9. Check the bottom layer regularly. It must remain moist as this is where the mushrooms get their water. If it begins to dry, moisten with the atomiser. Try not to get the cakes or the newly forming mushrooms wet.
  10. The next 7-14 days are what it is all about. Small mushrooms will appear and grow steadily for 2-5 days. When the caps start to open, it is time for harvest.

HARVEST

Harvest the large, mature mushrooms by twisting them from the cake with clean hands. There will be some smaller, undeveloped mushrooms with blackish heads left over. These are called aborts and should be harvested and used also. If they are rotten, remove them and throw them away.

FLUSHES

You have just had your first flush of homegrown magic mushrooms! This is the largest crop from the cake, but there are more to come. Your cake should give you four decent flushes, perhaps more.

Just keep the base layer moist and repeat the fruiting instructions. Within a week, more pins and small mushrooms will appear and mature. Continue until the cakes are exhausted. You can place the used cakes in a pre-prepared garden plot for future outdoor flushes.

DUNKING

Dunking

If you are feeling confident after your first flush, you can try dunking. This can improve the yield of subsequent flushes significantly. Dunking is the submersion of the cake in water for between 12-24hrs. This sounds counterintuitive, but it does work.

  1. With very clean hands, remove a recently harvested mycelium cake from the fruiting chamber.
  2. Place in a lidded container large enough to cover the cake in water.
  3. Fill container with cool, fresh water - tap water if it is unchlorinated or clear spring water. Replace the lid.
  4. Place the container with the cake in the refrigerator for at least 12 hours. Don't forget!
  5. The cake can handle 24hrs, but 48hrs will definitely drown the mycelium.
  6. After dunking, drain well and pat dry with clean paper towel.
  7. Place cake back in the fruiting chamber.
  8. Continue fruiting as normal.
  9. Repeat at each flush

Growing mushrooms at home is a skill any psychonaut should master. By keeping things clean, not rushing and showing some patience (don't peek too much and disturb the cultures!) you can have the best quality mushrooms in the world. On demand. All the time.

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